By David Postic, a member of the Rotaract Club of Norman, Oklahoma, USA, and a member of the 2013-14 Rotaract and Interact Committee
Baseball is a sport so historically beloved in the United States that it is called “America’s pastime.” Yet few Americans I know actually watch baseball on a regular basis. Why? Because when you really look at the game, it can seem slow, boring, and it can get old pretty quickly. Most people love the idea of baseball; they just don’t love watching it.
Similarly, there are many young people out there (like me) who love the idea of Rotary. But when you really look at any given Rotary club it can seem, well, slow and boring.
I had the luxury of growing up around Rotarians, so when I see Rotary I see something groundbreaking, something transformational. Yet of all the Rotary meetings I have been to, never once have I heard someone say, “Did you know that, through Rotary, you can change the world?” That is Rotary’s most powerful message, and it is the one young people need to hear. And if they do not hear it, I can guarantee you they will not be engaged in Rotary.
The problem boils down to this: there can sometimes be a generational gap in Rotary clubs. There are older Rotarians who see it as a social club and younger people who see it as a retirement home. As a result many young people choose not to join those old clubs and instead form new ones. New clubs are by no means bad things, but when all the young people are creating new clubs the math says those old clubs will eventually die.
How do we fix this problem? As a near expert on 22-year-olds, allow me to offer two pieces of advice for any Rotary club looking to recruit young people like me:
First, wake up. If your meetings or service projects are not more exciting than going to the mall, watching the latest episode of American Idol, or even spending an hour on Facebook, young people will not be engaged and they will not join. Get out into the community and serve. Develop innovative projects that truly make a difference. Writing checks is not enough to keep us interested.
Second, let go of your club. Give up control. People my age want to feel like they are making an impact. Give young members responsibilities. Listen to their ideas. Most importantly, make them the leaders and let them change things. If you make it a habit to continuously evolve as a club, you will continue to engage young people and flourish. And when clubs flourish, Rotary flourishes. It is as simple as that.
Rotary is a great idea, and I want to be a part of it. There are millions and millions of young people like me who want to be a part of it too. But as long as Rotary, like baseball, seems to be slow and boring, what reason do we have to join? If you want to engage young Rotarians, wake up and let go. We think that’s awesome.
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